George Washington Papers

From George Washington to William Booker, 15 April 1798

To William Booker

Mount Vernon 15th April 1798.


I am sorry to inform you that, the Machine you erected for me at the Union farm has by no means answered your expectation, or mine.

You will recollect, that in its first performance, under your own direction, the execution in the course of the day fell short of 50 bushls—it has been growing worse, until I was obliged to disuse it, not being able to get out 25 bushls in the day; and before 500 bushls were got out, it had expended two bands which cost between eight & £10.1

I do not give you these details by way of complaint: other motives have induced them. 1st, a late Advertisement of yours, by which it appears that new, & important discoveries, or improvements have been made; 2d, a wish to erect another, but discouraged by the operation of the last; and 3d (which more immediately affects yourself) from the unfavorable impression the failure has made upon those who, in these parts, were desirous of adopting them for the purpose of getting out their grain & had come to see mine work—I should be glad to hear from you on this subject as soon as convenient2—and am Sir Your Obedt Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), DLC:GW.

1For GW’s dealings in 1797 with Booker about his threshing machine, see GW to Booker, 26 June 1797, n.1.

2Booker responded on 20 April from Richmond: “I have your favor of 15th instant and am Sorry to hear of the Machine falling So far Short of what was Expected. I feel Greatly Indebted to you for your kindness in writeing me in that friendly Manner. The Improvements Since made are very Meterial, but I cannot discribe them in Such a way as to be Clearly understood. I Expect to Come to that part of the Country Soon after harvest, and if it be agreable to you I will with pleasure Call at Mount-vernon and make the alterations, which will be but trifling in Expence, no Meterials of consequence will be wanting Except a rawhide band which if you approve, and will Let me Know Soon, I will Send” (DLC:GW).

GW’s reply is dated 25 April: “Sir In reply to your letter of the 20th instant, I inform you, that I shall be very glad to see you at Mount Vernon when you come into this part of the Country—and that the sooner it happens after harvest the more agreeable it will be to me. It is not the expence of my alteration in my Wheat Machine I regard, if the object proposed by it, can be accomplished. And I shall depend upon you for a raw hide band of the best kind. With esteem I am Sir, Your Obedient Servt Go: Washington” (letterpress copy, DLC:GW). Booker did not acknowledge GW’s letter until 15 June: “Your Letter of 25th of April I duly Receivd and will forward to any place in Alexandr[i]a you will Name a raw hide band of the best Quality for your Machine. As it is near harvest youl be so good as to Excuse me for reminding you of the necessity of Gathering your wheat as straight as possible which I make no doubt of the Machines answering. At this time I cannot Say what Time I will be at Mount Vernon but I will give you due notice” (DLC:GW).

After further correspondence Booker came to Mount Vernon on 14 August. See Booker to GW, 6 July, and Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:313.

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